The Grayson Highlands are a much-anticipated section by most hikers. Most have heard about its beauty and the wild ponies. Before my first hike, I pictured the Grayson Highlands as fertile and lushly verdant, rolling hills. On the contrary, it is dry and rocky and reminds me of terrain I have seen in old western movies.
Before I ever entered the park, I came to a spring. I stopped to filter water and I splashed the cool water on my face, arms and necklace. It was a HOT day! No sooner had I begun to walk when I heard a noise ahead. The trail was on an incline. I looked up and saw one of the ‘wild’ ponies up the trail. It appeared to be waiting for me to step aside!
As I stepped aside, it came down the trail, and I soon saw that their were two ponies, and one had a colt with her.
As they passed me, one of them started licking the salt off of my leg! It soon had most of its mouth on my thigh and was doing what I can only describe as ‘sucking’ my thigh. As I looked down and saw it’s teeth and the ferocity of the sucking, I became worried that it would decide to take a bite, so I gently pushed it away.
These ponies are not the least bit afraid of humans. Later down the trail, I came to a placard that said the ponies were introduced to the park to graze and help keep the brush from growing. It didn’t mention the breed, but said these ponies are hardy enough to withstand the winters and the terrain. They are also rounded up once a year for a health check, and some are sold to manage herd size.
I enjoyed the ponies very much! This section is very beautiful and unique! …but it is also quite rocky. The truth about Virginia is that there are a lot of rocks, and rocks hurt the feet if you walk 15 miles a day on them. I have been trying to walk slower and to pace myself. There was not much shade through the park. Though my feet were not hurting as much as they did last time, they hurt, and it was hot! If you ever choose to hike this section, I would advise doing it early in the day. I also saw more ponies before and after the park boundaries.
Right before I entered the park boundary, I stopped by the shelter to use the privy. A guy came up to me and asked if I was Arkansas Traveler! I was shocked! He thru hiked in 2016, and remembered me! He got sick and didn’t complete his hike. He was out here doing a long section hike.
I hiked to just beyond the first shelter after the park boundary, when I heard someone calling, “Rebound!” It was Waterfall (who has the sweetest dog!) With her was Cook, whose wife (Ice) and Toasty had gone for supplies. A friend with a car met them there and took them. They were taking a zero there. It was a little tent city, but they were in the sun. I was hot and dehydrated and wanted some shade. I ended up setting my tent up away from everyone else amongst the rhododendrons for shade. I went to bed early!